Advice for the Community

Staying healthy using a layered approach

Every winter, respiratory viruses put significant strain on our health care system. This was the case even before COVID-19.

Protect yourself, those around you and our health care system by using “layers of protection.” For the best protection, Public Health strongly recommends all individuals stay up-to-date on their vaccines, including vaccines against COVID-19 and the flu, and wear a mask.

  • Get vaccinated and stay up to date

    With both COVID-19 and the flu circulating in Niagara, everyone is encouraged to get up-to-date with all vaccines, find out when you need to get your next COVID-19 vaccine, and get the flu shot once available.

    COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time as, or any time before or after, other vaccines, for all age groups. There is no time interval to wait.

    If you've felt confused about COVID-19 vaccination for you or your child, you aren't alone. Talk to a health care provider who will listen to your concerns and answer your questions. For more information, contact the SickKids COVID-19 vaccine consult service. 

  • Wear a mask

    Masks help protect you and those around you from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.

    Niagara Region Public Health strongly recommends everyone who can continue to wear a mask in indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings.

    Learn about masks.

  • Stay home if you're sick

    Whether you have COVID-19 or not, stay home if you're feeling sick to help prevent whatever infection you may have from spreading to others.

    Learn about COVID-19 self-isolation, symptoms and testing.

  • Spend time outdoors or in well-ventilated indoor spaces

    Ensure your ventilation system is in good working order. If you don't have a ventilation system, open windows to increase fresh air flow (if weather permits and can be tolerated).

    Learn about how ventilation helps protect against the spread of COVID-19.

    If you use a forced air system to heat or cool your home:

    • Set the system to "Fan On position" if possible
    • Replace your filter when needed
    • Upgrade to a filter with a higher MERV rating if possible
    • Check your owner's manual for details or consult a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional before making any changes to your system

    Avoid using portable fans, ceiling fans and single unit air conditioners. If you must use them, aim the air stream to avoid blowing directly at or between people in the room. Consider using fans that vent to the outside, such as a box fan in a window, a bathroom exhaust fan and a kitchen exhaust fan. Make sure you open a window when using these fans if possible.

    Try to maintain an optimal humidity level, between 30 and 50 per cent in your home. A humidifier or dehumidifier can help you achieve this.

    For other ventilation options, speak with a HVAC professional or see Health Canada's guidance document 'At home: Using ventilation and filtration to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19'.

  • Clean your hands often
  • Practise respiratory etiquette and keep things clean

    Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your sleeve. Throw used tissues into a covered, compostable bag lined organics bin or a plastic lined garbage can. Clean your hands after.

    Avoid sharing personal items, especially those that come into contact with saliva, such as toothbrushes and eating utensils.

    Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly using a disinfectant and following manufacturer’s instructions. Learn about cleaning and disinfecting and COVID-19.

Those at higher risk of severe outcomes

Different respiratory viruses are spreading in our community right now, including COVID-19, the flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). While anyone can get really sick from these viruses, some people are more at risk of a severe outcome, such as hospitalization or even death, from getting infected. This can be due to factors such as age or having an underlying medical condition. Social factors, like income status, can also put people more at risk.

By using layers of protection, we not only help protect ourselves but also the most vulnerable people in our community, such as children, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. If you are someone who may be at higher risk of a severe outcome from an infection, it is all the more important to use layers of protection to help stay healthy.

International travel advice

See the Public Health Agency of Canada's travel advice for international travel and COVID-19. Countries may have proof of vaccination requirements that you must meet to be allowed to enter. If you were vaccinated in Ontario, learn about getting your proof of vaccination. This form of proof does not guarantee you entry to another country. Before you travel, you must check the rules of your destination country and the countries you transit through.

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